Sea surface temperatures and Later and Middle Stone Age shellfish harvesting strategies from oxygen isotopes of Turbo sarmaticus opercula

Dr Emma Loftus will present the Department of Archaeology seminar with a talk entitled, "Sea surface temperatures and Later and Middle Stone Age shellfish harvesting strategies from oxygen isotopes of Turbo sarmaticus opercula".  

The southernmost coast of Africa boasts much of the earliest robust evidence for consistent use of marine resources. The exploitation of coastal habitats is argued to have driven evolutionary and demographic processes key to the global success of anatomically modern humans. Sustained marine resource use in southern Africa is unambiguous during parts of the Holocene Later Stone Age (LSA), yet the extent to which molluscs were relied upon during the Middle Stone Age (MSA) is still a subject of active debate. Additionally, the role of rapid climate shifts for early cultural innovation has proven contentious, given the scarcity of chronologically matched records. Here I present seasonal-resolution δ18O analyses of Turbo sarmaticus opercula from two LSA and two MSA sites, and discuss the implications for understandings of seasonal climate shifts, hunter-gatherer resource usage and cultural innovation throughout the MSA and LSA. The results show that mean sea surface temperature (SST) shifts accord well with global SST trends across this period, and near-shore SST seasonality may reflect the relative dominance of the westerly and easterly wind systems. These data link the marine and terrestrial climate domains and provide a new climate archive for an important but understudied climate system. The data also show a marked shift in shellfishing behaviours between the MSA and LSA. Finally, I will briefly outline my plans to extend this research to the Atlantic west coasts of South Africa and Morocco.

Date: 
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 13:00
Venue: 

Archaeology Department Teaching Studio, B3.10 Beattie Building, Upper Campus, UCT

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